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The Collection of Letters of Christoph Jacob Trew

This collection is part of the holdings of the Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen-Nürnberg (Friedrich Alexander University Library).

The Briefsammlung (letter collection) of Christoph Jakob Trew (1695-1769), a doctor and scientist from Nuremberg, is one of the world's largest known letter collections with a medical and scientific focus. It contains about 19,000 letters and drawings by 2,200 authors from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The insights into the history of science of the early modern era are as diverse as the addressees and senders: the coeval history of ideas in surgery and anatomy, zoology and botany become as vivid as the concrete everyday life of medical practice and natural history research. Trew left the complete collection of letters to the University of Altdorf in 1769. After its dissolution in 1809, the collection came to Erlangen together with the 34,000 volumes of his scholar's library, where it would be included in the holdings of the University Library.

The Trew collection of letters is a unique source for research in the history of science and art in two respects: through the third-party correspondence that Christoph Jacob Trew collected during his lifetime, individual autographs of important representatives of natural and intellectual history since humanism can be found here. There are also separate correspondences incorporated into the collection of letters, such as that of Lorenz Heister (1683-1758), who worked as an anatomist and surgeon at Nuremberg University in Altdorf and published what was probably the most important surgical textbook of his time. Trew’s own correspondence offers the opportunity to examine the communication structures, the production of knowledge and the social interaction of the republic of letters at the time.

Under Trew’s direction, the world’s first medical weekly, the Commercium Litterarium, was published in Nuremberg from 1731 to 1745. It was largely based on the medical, chemical and natural history information that arrived in Nuremberg through Trew’s tightly knit and dynamically operated network of letters.

Trew was also responsible for the publication of unique illustrated anatomical and botanical works. He worked closely with Johann Jacob Haid (1704 -1767), a copper engraver and publisher from Augsburg. These letters are preserved in the Trew collection and offer an insight into the production process of Trew’s Plantae Selectae and other illustrated works.